Water Treatment for Renters: The Best Water Filters for Apartments and Condos

Posted by
John Woodard on June 07, 2024

For most renters, finding a quality home water filtration system is more difficult than for a homeowner. This is because landlords often restrict the modifications, such as drilling into a countertop or mounting a system inside your cabinets, you can make to a rental property. Despite these restrictions, many types of water treatment are available for those in apartments, condos, and rental homes. In this article, you can learn about the methods of water treatment that are best suited for those in rented spaces.

Why filter water in an apartment or condo?

Most apartments and condos utilize municipal water that is treated by a local water treatment plant. While this water is regulated to be safe to drink, it often possesses a bitter, unpleasant taste and a foul odor. The contaminants present in the public water supply vary by region and, as a result, so does the water’s taste. A water treatment system offers consistent water quality regardless of the water’s starting chemistry, and it provides better tasting water for drinking and cooking.

In addition to creating water that tastes and smells clean, you may also wish to eliminate contaminants that city water treatment does not completely remove. These include microplastics, PFAS, and lead from old pipes, solder, or service lines. Not all water treatment systems remove these contaminants, so ensure you select a more comprehensive filtration method if you wish to remove as much contamination as possible.

Learn more: The truth about lead water pipes | How to remove microplastics from drinking water | PFAS in drinking water: what you need to know

Why can some water filters not be used in apartments?

Certain types of water treatment systems, such as reverse osmosis and whole-house systems, are not allowed in some rental properties for a variety of reasons. First, treatment systems that supply water to a whole home or building cannot be installed in an individual apartment. Also, any system that requires permanent changes in cabinets, countertops, or other fixed objects are not allowed in most rental agreements. A specific problem to RO systems is their excess use of water in the treatment process, raising your water use as a whole. As a result, some leases may not allow the use of traditional reverse osmosis systems. In the cases listed above, renters must turn to water treatment systems that require no complex installation yet still possess high filtration quality.

reverse osmosis system

How to choose the best water filter for your apartment

The best water filter for your apartment is determined by the quality of your local water supply. If you utilize municipal water, you can request a local water quality report to determine which contaminants are present in your water. If you request a water quality report, your local treatment plant is obligated to give one to you. For most renters, this method should tell you everything you need to know. For those who wish to test their water independently, at-home test kits or lab water testing are the primary options. At-home test kits are generally less expensive and quicker than laboratory water analysis, but they do not test as accurately or as many contaminants. Overall, lab testing gives the most comprehensive analysis of a water sample, but the turnaround time is typically at least a couple weeks.

Learn more: Lab water tests vs at-home water test kits | How to read your water quality report

What are the best water filters for apartments?

Point-of-use water filters that do not require drilling or any other permanent changes to fixed objects are ideal for apartments. The point-of-use filter that is best for you depends on your water quality, your rental property’s setup, your budget, and your personal preferences. The most common types of water treatment devices and systems used in rental properties are water pitcher filters, refrigerator water filters, gravity-fed water filters, countertop reverse osmosis systems, some under-sink units, shower filters, and water distillers.

Water pitcher filters

Water pitcher filters are the most common type of water filter found in apartments and other rented spaces. This is because they are inexpensive, easy to use, and effective at reducing the levels of some contaminants in water. Pitcher filters come in a variety of configurations and price points, so you can find a unit that best suits your preferences and budget. While no water pitcher filter is as effective as a reverse osmosis system, there are many that can reduce levels of chlorine, lead, PFAS, microplastics, and many other contaminants.

Pros of water pitcher filters

  • Simple to use
  • No installation required
  • Easy cartridge replacements
  • Inexpensive

Cons of water pitcher filters

  • Not as comprehensive as many other systems
  • Take up space in the fridge

Learn more: Do water pitcher filters really work?

water pitcher filter

Refrigerator water filters

Behind only water pitcher filters, refrigerator water filters are the second most common type of water filter used in United States homes. Most fridge filters are CTO filters, meaning they are designed specifically to remove chlorine, bad tastes, and foul odors from water. These filters utilize a combination of sediment and activated carbon filtration, removing large sediment, lead, chlorine, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Fridge filters must be changed once every six months to one year, and you can expect to spend somewhere in the range of $30 to $70 for each filter.

Pros of refrigerator water filters

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to install and replace
  • Take up little space

Cons of refrigerator water filters

  • Not as comprehensive as other systems
  • Type of filter restricted by refrigerator model

Learn more: Do refrigerator filters really work?

Gravity-fed water filters

Gravity-fed water filters utilize the power of gravity to let water flow down through one or multiple types of filter media. The most common types of filter media used for gravity-fed units are ceramic, activated carbon, and hollow fiber membranes. Unlike many other water treatment systems, gravity-fed filters are not pressurized and must be filled manually, so water does not get filtered as quickly in a gravity-fed system. However, these filters require little maintenance and are extremely simple to use.

Pros of gravity-fed filters

  • Inexpensive
  • Low maintenance
  • Portable
  • Require no electricity

Cons of gravity-fed filters

  • Must be filled manually
  • Take up space on countertop
  • Filter water slowly

Learn more: What is a ceramic filter and how does it work? | Activated carbon filters 101

Countertop reverse osmosis systems

While you may be unable to install an under-sink reverse osmosis (RO) system in an apartment, there are countertop versions of RO that can yield similar results. The RO process produces extremely high-quality water, but not all systems are created equal. Countertop RO systems are filled manually, so you can only have access to as much water as you put into the system. Additionally, countertop RO utilizes proprietary filters, meaning only the manufacturer of the system produces the filters that will fit within the system. This not only makes filter changes more expensive, but it also means that you are out of luck if the manufacturer decides to stop making the filters for your system. If you wish to use an RO system that will last a long time, an under-sink system that utilizes standard filters may be the best fit for you.

Pros of countertop reverse osmosis systems

  • Much simpler installation than under-sink RO
  • Remove a large number of contaminants

Cons of countertop reverse osmosis systems

  • Hold limited amount of water
  • Use proprietary filters
  • Longer filter time than most other systems
  • More expensive than most other systems

Learn more: What is reverse osmosis?

Under-sink filters

Many types of under-sink filters can be used without the need for drilling or otherwise altering your property. Others, such as reverse osmosis, require a hole to be drilled into the countertop for a secondary faucet. If approved by your landlord, reverse osmosis systems are one of the best home water treatment options available. For those who cannot utilize a reverse osmosis system due to rental restrictions, activated carbon and KDF under-sink filters are an excellent option. While they do not remove as many contaminants as reverse osmosis, carbon and KDF under-sink filters remove important contaminants like lead, chlorine, and VOCs. Certain under-sink filters, such as the Neo-Pure TL1, are rated to remove many more contaminants, such as asbestos, mercury, cysts, and pharmaceuticals. While under-sink filters are more complicated to install than many other renter-friendly systems, they can be removed should you choose to a move location.

Pros of under-sink filters

  • Take up little space underneath kitchen counter
  • Available in many configurations

Cons of under-sink filters

  • Not all can be installed in rentals
  • More complicated installation than other systems

Shower filters

Because renters cannot install a whole-house system for their apartment or other residence type, shower filters are an excellent renter-friendly way to protect your skin and hair from the damage caused by the chlorine and chloramines added to municipal water. These filters attach directly to the showerhead, so there is no complicated installation required. Activated carbon filters do not work well on hot water applications, so shower filters utilize KDF media to eliminate contaminants from the hot water flowing through the showerhead.

Pros of shower filters

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to install
  • Protect skin and hair from chlorine and chloramines

Cons of shower filters

  • Not as effective as whole-house carbon filters

Learn more: What is a shower filter and is it necessary?

Water distillers

Water distillers offer the most comprehensive water treatment available to homeowners. In fact, they eliminate practically all contamination from water, leading distillation to be the only type of water treatment method used in many medical, scientific, and other laboratory settings. Water distillers require no complicated installation process. Rather, they sit on the countertop and plug into the nearest available outlet. To operate, simply fill the boiling chamber container with water and allow the distiller to begin heating the water. Once the water is heated above its boiling point, it will turn into vapor and collect on the ceiling of the distiller. Here, the water cools until it reverts into a liquid state. This liquid is then captured by a collection container in the form of pure water.

While distillation is effective, it takes a long time to complete. The average countertop water distiller takes about four hours to distill one gallon of water. If your home has a high demand for drinking water, another treatment system may be your best bet.

Pros of water distillers

  • Remove practically all contaminants from water
  • No complicated installation
  • No cartridge replacements

Cons of water distillers

  • Long treatment time
  • Take up space on countertop
  • Use more energy than other systems

Learn more: What is distilled water and is it safe to drink?


If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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